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Oct. 13, 2014

80th Anniversary Celebrations: Wayne Ave. Nostalgia Tours, University Blvd. Open House

by Divya Rajagopal, Managing Editor
Wayne Avenue

On a chilly Saturday morning, Blazer alumni found themselves making their way to 313 Wayne Ave: the site of the 'old Blair,' which housed Blair for 63 years, from 1935 to 1998. The campus now houses Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School. The Blair graduates entered, looking around at the hallways that they had traversed in their teenage years.
The welcoming committee at the Old Blair from the Blair Alumni Association. Connor Smith
The welcoming committee at the Old Blair from the Blair Alumni Association.

Emily Hartnell, or Emily Bailey, as most of her old friends knew her, was from the class of 1964. At Blair, she was part of the library club, which wrote newsletters for the students. But some of her strongest memories from high school weren't school-related. "People from my class went off to fight in the Vietnam War. But no one in my class died. I find that remarkable," Bailey said. Her graduating class, with a whooping 850 students, was the first baby boomer year. After graduating Blair, Hartnell got married, attended business school at Northwestern and moved to Evanston, Illinois. When she realized that her 50th high school graduation anniversary was approaching, she went online, contacted the reunion community and decided to fly out for the event. "It was wonderful seeing so many people whom I haven't seen in ages," she reminisced fondly. "I met some old friends for drinks last night, and finally reconnected after all of these years."

Joe Sperling, also from the class of 1964, remembers high school as some of the best years of his life. "It was just wonderful. My friends were my favorite part, but the annual shows were grand as well," he commented. "Going to Blair was like living in American Graffiti": the popular 1973 George Lucas film about a couple of high school graduates spending one last night together before heading off to college. However, Sperling remembered a terrible event that brought the school together in mourning: President Kennedy's assassination. "We were just living these idyllic years, and then suddenly, dark, painful reality sets in. It shocked us: assassinations were academic to us, something you learn about in history books, but suddenly we were living it," Sperling recollected, his voice grave. "Teachers and students alike were crying together. And we were dismissed early in the afternoon." Despite that time of turmoil, Sperling felt that everyone went through that "normal adolescent angst of getting pimples, having bad hair and being a geek, but despite all that, having a great time." Sperling, now an insurance broker, practiced law for 16 years, and worked at a law firm with another Blair graduate present at the reunion: Victoria "Pinkey" Crutchfield.

Pinkey Crutchfield was volunteering at the front desk at the Wayne Avenue event. From the graduating class of 1981, she was an avid basketball player, starting for both JV and varsity. Being on the basketball team, Crutchfield recalled, was one of the best parts of high school, especially since her team won regionals. "It was a good team that liked playing basketball," Crutchfield stated proudly. Her favorite part of her graduating class was their integrated nature. "Nerds, jocks, jockettes, band members, artsy people we all got along. Everybody listened to the same music. Watched the same shows. It was really like a brother- and sisterhood."
The old Montgomery Blair High School can be found on Wayne Avenue. Connor Smith
The old Montgomery Blair High School can be found on Wayne Avenue.

The alumni also felt that the campus had changed after the many decades. Agnes Zbiegniewicz, from the class of 1979, found the current 'old Blair' quite confusing to navigate. The campus was "very different from what I grew up with. I used to walk up past the Autobody shop to enter, but it took forever to find it," Zbiegniewicz admitted.

As the event drew to a close, the alumni made their way to the current Blair campus on University Boulevard to check out the current community of students.

University Boulevard

At the current Blair site, displays that showcased the most prominent aspects of Blair today lined the sides of Blair Boulevard. Alumni strolled down, noting how much the Blair student community has changed and grown.

Sarah Hart, the Organic Chemistry teacher at Blair, ran the first display, which sold creatively designed car license plate frames to raise money for the STEM murals on the third floor. Staff writers from the print edition of Silver Chips, who had on display both copies of the recently published paper and old Silver Chips issues from the 80s, manned the next table. The next few exhibits included a display for Sankofa, Gap Buster, the League of United Latin American Students and the Green Club.

Down the hallway in the gym were tables set up with memorabilia such as old newspapers, yearbooks and pictures from different graduating years. Two brothers, Jim and Bill Corey, from the graduating classes of 1974 and 1975 respectively, noted their amazement at the age some of the memorabilia could be dated to. "There's a good deal here from before my time. Things from the 30s and 40s. Whoever put this together did a great job," The older of the brothers stated.
The open house at Blair featured displays from different clubs. Connor Smith
The open house at Blair featured displays from different clubs.

Bill Ziegler, a member of the Blair Alumni Association from the graduating class of 1971, was in charge of the organization for the open house at Blair; he felt that the Anniversary celebrations were going quite well despite a few setbacks. "I thought that there were going to be more clubs," he stated. "More clubs called me previously to make sure they had tables. And those clubs aren't here. But overall it's going well."

Blair Principal Renay Johnson mirrored his sentiments. "I'm very pleased. This event celebrates 80 years of education," Johnson stated. She also connected the alumnus' visit to its impact on current students at Blair. "Current Blazers realize that there's a lot of value in older generations," she explained. "Our Blazers have a lot they can learn from Blair alumni."



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